Eagle County to join state program that gives qualified local businesses more leniency with COVID protocols
5 Star Business Certification program includes intense inspection process, but possible leniency in COVID-19 protocols
For months, Eagle County officials have been working diligently to get the county eligible for the state’s 5 Star Business Certification program, which allows gyms, restaurants, personal services and event venues to submit for inspection and, if approved, navigate the state’s COVID-19 protocols with a little more leniency.
On Tuesday afternoon — upon hearing the county’s vaccine numbers are going up and infection rates are going down with the anticipation to move into the yellow phase of the state’s COVID dial — county health and business chamber officials presented virtually to over 90 business owners from the valley about the 5 Star Business Certification program.
“Thank you for your interest,” said Chris Romer, president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership — one of the organizations pushing the 5 Star Business Certification program. “We’ve been working, the collective team at Eagle County, with some of our town and municipal partners as well as Vail Valley Partnership, to build this program.”
Applications open Wednesday morning and will be available under the “I am looking for business resources” page of eaglecountycovid.org. For businesses who missed the virtual meeting Tuesday, it will be posted online, or email Ec5starquestions@eaglecounty.us with further questions.
“Just know from a private sector standpoint that Eagle County has been on top of this,” Romer added. “Thanks to the towns for stepping up to the plate … and kudos to the county.”
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Certified businesses in the 5 Star Business Certification program are able to operate with enhanced precautions at higher capacity than the current state and county dial level. Meaning, if the county were to be in the high-risk orange phase (which it currently is in) with restrictions including 25% capacity at businesses, a certified business could operate under the next closest phase — in this case, the yellow concerned phase, which allows for 50% capacity. With the county announcing it expects to move from orange to yellow this week, thanks to recent COVID numbers and changes to the state’s system, certified businesses would be able to operate in the blue cautionary phase, which allows for more indoor capacity.
One of the state’s recent changes in switching phases includes required COVID cases to be below a certain threshold spanning 14 days, which is now 7 days. This change could force the county to go in and out of different phases more frequently.
“We’ll continue to roll with this information as fast as we can,” Heath Harmon, director of Eagle County Public Health, told the business owners on Tuesday, adding that in order for any county to get to the blue caution phase, the state is requiring 70% of Colorado residents 70 years or older to be vaccinated. As of Tuesday, Harmon said the state is currently between 30% and 40% of those 70 and older being vaccinated.
“In Eagle County, we are doing better,” Harmon said, adding he is confident anyone 70 or older in this county who wants the vaccine has either gotten their first shot or are scheduled to.
How it works
Restaurants, bars, event venues, recreation centers and personal services (hair and nail salon, massage therapists, pet grooming and training) are eligible for the 5 Star Business Certification program.
The county’s administrative committee determines if an application shows the business is ready for inspection, then an inspection team from a town or the county will conduct the inspection and verify all required measures are in place.
If passed, the business is issued a certification on-site as well as a window cling with a QR code taking customers to the program’s site as well as an option to leave a complaint. If an application is rejected, then businesses will be told why and given suggestions on how to fix the issue.
The application process itself requires a social distancing protocol; business-specific written implementation and compliance plan; business-specific plan for outbreak detection and reporting and response; ventilation improvement plan; and an exposure notification plan.
Patrons of businesses that are certified through the 5 Star program can rest assured that the process is diligent. Inspectors are looking for, among many other things, employees wearing masks properly, maintaining 6 feet between tables or guests, scheduled sanitation sweeps, daily employee health checks as well as keeping record of customers to help with contact tracing.